I am a 23-year-old Nursing and Midwifery student. I like to write reflections of my experiences in the healthcare industry. Disclaimer: All names have been changed, stories told are a combination of many experiences.
Why I make tiny teapots
I began taking pottery classes because I wanted to recreate the scene in ghost. I soon realised that I wouldn't be throwing a vase like that for years. If I was in the middle of creating that masterpiece I wouldn't let my man even breathe in my direction. The strength and control required to throw a piece like that. It's always surprising to me that the potters we see in the media, on Tik Tok, that they don't all look like lumberjacks. Myself, I can't throw anything much bigger than a cup. I definitely don't have a talent for pottery. About 50% of the pottery I start out creating collapses in on itself or forms a crack or my dog decides to step on it in the delicate leather-hard phase. It's not natural skill that has kept my doing pottery, and it ain't a cheap hobby either that's for sure. It's the meditation of it. The feel on the clay flowing beneath your hands, the utter concentration required. On that wheel I feel like an earth-bender. There's no shortage of frustrations, but when you leave the studio, having wholly focused on one thing for hours, pouring your very soul into the clay, you feel completely refreshed. The day's troubles tend to come out in the clay, somehow it's like the stress transfers and the clay ripples and sags and twists awkwardly. Once you overcome it though, taming the clay through careful breathing and focused strength, it yields to you. As a student nurse, I am thrust onto unfamiliar wards, dealing with pressure to succeed, be perfect, pleasant and not make mistakes. All this whilst dealing with death, shit, blood and sadness. Some days, I have to sit with a young wife on the floor while her husband seizes and dies beside us. Then as a student, I get the job of cleaning up and bagging the body. Other days I get to deliver babies, and joy turns to chaos as we desperately try to get that baby to take it's first breaths. When the paediatrician arrives I hold the parents' hands and explain everything that's happening on the resuscitation cot. It's actually on of the hardest jobs in the room, I think. While the doctors and midwives work on the intricate physical task they've done over and over. I chose a harder role, a role often neglected. You're scared to give too much hope, in case the baby doesn't make it, you're also scared to give too much detail, as you don't want to stress them out unnecessarily. They look at you like you're delivering the most important message they've ever heard, a translater for the nightmare they're watching unfold. But I'll take it on for them, because the fear they're feeling is nothing I can imagine. Because I get to go home, and let it all melt away on the pottery wheel. On days like that I tend to start out with tiny pieces. In my class, my classmates would laugh at me for making dollhouse teasets. Tiny thumb-print sized teapots, cups and saucers. Because smaller pieces of clay are easy, creating them makes me feel in control. Because the larger pieces are too much to take on on days like those. They're definitely not as impressive and glamorous as the big elaborate pots we conjure up when we think of pottery, but once intricately painted, glazed and signed with a tiny intial, I feel so proud of the little piece of beauty I've made. D They are little souvenirs of the hardships I faced that day. A reminder of an inner strength I have that's not physical. And despite the laughs from my classmates, everyone coos at my lovely little teapots.
Then I realized I was the problem
I am ravenous for the voices of midwives and women. Every long drive to placement, everyday spent cleaning with my headphones in I consume every bit of perinatal content I can get my hands on. Anything even vaguely related to childbearing, from the memoirs of midwives to motherhood podcast and books on feminism or Montessori. I slurp it up, rewinding each time my vacuuming distracts me and I miss an important piece of information. I want to get inside the minds of the women I serve, feel what they feel so I can give them the care they actually need. There are deep rooted problems in maternity care. As my education and experience blossoms I find almost every piece of information I receive contradicting some other piece of information, meaning I am constantly trying to shove it into the jigsaw in some way it makes sense. Sometimes I've had to disregard some pieces, assessing the what is the most up-to-date evidence based piece. Generally it’s the things most people don’t talk about enough that are true. The things that turn sour in my gut when I see it in practice. When I heard the statistic about African-American women in the USA dying of pregnancy related complications at 5 times the rate of their white candidates (Center of Disease Control and Prevention, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0905-racial-ethnic-disparities-pregnancy-deaths.html), I could scarcely believe it. When my teachers told me about racial discrimination in our own hospital system, I forced it to make some sense in my mind; perhaps they’re just talking about some highly remote country hospital, where they ‘accidentally’ use the wrong terminology, or serve them a culturally unsafe meal? Then I went on my first placement.
A GIRL UNPOISONED
The concrete tapped rhythmically under my feet with each purposeful stride. Cigarette fumes swirled around me and I pretended not to be offended by their pungent infiltration. I caught myself habitually straightening my jacket and smoothing my hair back. As I walked past a spindly side-walk tree I brush my fingers through its dancing lime-green leaves, appreciating it's bright juxtaposition against the grey backdrop. In front of me, four strangers did the recognizable street-cross that indicated danger. I crossed with them, looking over my shoulder to see a mid-thirties man, wearing a crusty, yellow-stained tracksuit, he was yelling incomprehensibly at a uniformed safety officer. On his neck, a thick locked collar flashed a bright red light indicating the man was in crisis. It appeared crisis presented as rage, agitation and aggression, as he lunged at the safety officer with a dinner knife, halted by the officer’s swift application of a taser. The man fell twitching to the ground as the officer spoke into a black box, calling for a pick-up. I frowned at the familiarity of it. As I rounded the corner towards the café, I passed several more people wearing the collars, eyeing them carefully for the flashing red light. Down a dim alley I turned the key in a grimy doorknob and entered the cafe. I plonked my bag on the stainless-steel bench and tied my apron around my waist. I cleaved open the heavy aluminium roller door and turned on the coffee machine. I took orders and frantically whizzed milk, making a few at a time to keep up with the demand. Diurnal Variation; A term used to describe the natural shifts in energy and mood every 24 hour cycle, usually signposted by morning depression. I sold a cup of temporary relief, and the money came flowing in. The only people making money in this city were those selling a short dose of mitigation from the all-consuming black.